[ALT-FOLK APOTHEOSIS] On first listen, I was dazed—and, yes, confused—by Fleet Foxes' massive, immaculate vocal harmonies, contrasted with the odd dissonance in their eclectic blend of musical source material. My second time through the Seattle band's lush self-titled full-length debut was spent fumbling in the rock-crit toolkit for my hype-smasher, having waded through pages of press praising the band to the heavens. Partly because Fleet Foxes choose not to print their lyrics, and partly because their compositions take off in odd directions—revealing those strange juxtapositions of influence—it took a while for these songs to coalesce in my brain, to convince me that they were really songs, and not just collections of pretty chords and curious phrases.

The third time through, though, I was thoroughly disarmed. The songs' characters took firmer, though still-shifting, shape before my eyes like mythic but unassuming figures striding out of the misty distance to shake off the dust. Still disoriented by the unfamiliar instrumental backdrop and dopamine-drunk on the chorus of voices, I might've been seated around a forty-niner campfire or the inn at Canterbury as this affable, phantom bunch shared their songs and stories.

If that all seems a bit carried away, it's just 'cause Fleet Foxes' music—in its beauty, complexity, delicacy, sincerity—really can carry you away. Lay down your hype-smashers, Portland, and surrender.